Netflix is becoming the home to a lot of under the radar horror/thriller films these days, either distributed by the streaming giant itself or finding a new home there. ‘The Platform’ is the former, a Spanish sci-if horror with a minimalist idea and setting. It’s worth noting, that whilst it was filmed in Spanish, I watched with the English dub, and felt that it didn’t detract from the enjoyment.
The story takes place in a ‘vertical self-management Center’, a windowless tower made up of an unknown number of floors. Each floor is a sparse concrete room, the only contents of which are a toilet, 2 beds, 2 inmates, and large hole in the floor.
Once a day the eponymous Platform progresses down through the holes, pausing at each level to allow the inmates to eat the food that has been laid out for them. But here is the catch, the food is only filled once, with the higher levels getting a feast and the lower levels being left with scraps if they are lucky. And you can only eat whilst the platform is paused at your level; hoarding food is harshly punished.
We follow Goreng, a man who has volunteered to enter and live in the Center for two years in exchange for a diploma. How this deal is supposed to work out for him is never really explained, and anyone else he mentions it to is clearly not convinced he’s getting any sort of diploma, and as a viewer I thought he was an idiot for taking that deal. There are hints that the greater world is in a pretty sorry state, hence him thinking the deal was the best route forward, but we never get the full picture of what’s led to the creation of the Center.
He wakes in the center at a relatively high floor with a older cell mate (and an actual criminal) who encourages him to eat when the platform arrives, but seeing the state of what’s left he refuses… that is until he realises the truth, he needs to eat while he can, because once a month the floors get shuffled.
The older man tells him horror stories of murder and cannibalism on the lower floors and he soon starts to embrace being at a ‘comfortable’ position in the center.
But if course it doesn’t last, the month rolls over and they find themselves at a low level, low enough that no food is left by the time the platform arrives. I won’t spoil how, but he survives long enough to get shuffled to a higher floor; this leads to his realisation (and fundamentally the message of the film) if the people on the higher floors only eat what they need, the lower floors will be able to survive as well.
So quite a poignant message about the rich poor divide which is prevalent in the world today… but of course his message falls on deaf ears, until he takes the action required to make them listen.
The film feels pretty low budget, but in a well made, professional way, much like the cult classic “Cube”. And I couldn’t help but be reminded of that film when watching this, the aesthetic is very similar: dreary, monotonous, grey. I haven’t looked into it, but I assume pretty much the entire film was recorded in a single set, with a different number on the wall to denote the level. But as I say, it never feels cheap, its just smart minimalist filmmaking.
It’s hard to talk too much about the acting when watching it with the dub on, but the English language version fit pretty well, and I never felt that anyone ‘had the wrong voice’ as can be the case when watching dubbed dialog.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable dystopian tale that wouldn’t have felt out of place as an episode of Black Mirror, but the films message is laboured a little much and I would have happily done without it being shoved down our throats suite so much.